acrally_120Residents gathered on Elmira Road last Saturday to participate in a Human Rights Rally calling for Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing and District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson to take action to remove Stephen Moracco from service as a County Deputy Sheriff.  The rally was prompted by an incident five years ago in which Moracco arrested Amy Crockford, who alleged that the officer injured her on purpose after placing her in custody in the back of his squad car.  She also alleged she was taunted by Moracco because she is a lesbian.

In 2009 Moracco, working as an Ithaca Police Officer, arrested Crockford after an incident at the State Diner. According to Crockford, Moracco handcuffed and placed her in the backseat of the squad car without being seat-belted. Moracco then allegedly intentionally drove erratically causing Crockford to slam up against the door and front seat, which resulted in her sustaining injuries to her face and shoulder. Crockford was charged with disorderly conduct and released a few hours after her arrest. All charges were later dropped and Crockford states that she still doesn’t know why she was arrested.

Crockford reported that the rally on Saturday was to garner public attention to the case because the statute of limitations for criminal charges will expire on May 31st. Crockford’s supporters carried signs and talked with passers-by explaining that they feel Wilkinson’s original investigation was incomplete and potentially biased.

In attendance at the rally was Heather Baretz of Ithaca who was an eyewitness to Crockford’s arrest. Bretz stated, “I heard the officer shout to Amy, ‘Do you want to go to jail?’ to which she responded ‘For what?’ We were only about ten feet away from them. We stayed and watched because he seemed overly aggressive.” Bretz continued, “Then he grabbed and twisted her hand and she went down on her knee and he handcuffed her. She did not resist at all and did not appear to be drunk. It was not the same kind of behavior I’d seen here from other police and it concerned me.”

Eyewitness Dyan Kummer, also in attendance at the rally, reported, “I watched him (Moracco) grab her and throw her to her knees handcuffing her. She was completely compliant despite his aggressive behavior.” Kummer goes on to say, “The manner in which he took the corner when he drove away with her was way too fast and unsafe.”

Kummer said Wilkinson never contacted her. Bretz stated that Wilkinson did call her but was not interested in her statement and only spoke to her for about thirty seconds on the phone. Information from these two witnesses prompted County residents including members of the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca’s Social Justice Council (FUSIT-SJC) to write letters to Wilkinson asking her to recuse herself from the case and allow a special investigator to reopen the matter.

Wilkinson never responded to letters from individual supporters or from Crockford. She did respond to the letter from the FUSIT-SJC stating that she stood by her investigation and would not recuse herself.


Rally-goers carried signs reading 'VIDEO DOES NOT LIE' referring to a video released by the City of Ithaca depicting Moracco allegedly re-enacting the car ride with Crockford in conversation with another officer disclosed in the Ithaca Journal on December 25, 2013.

Crockford said that Moracco used homophobic slurs as he repeatedly sped up and slammed on the brakes during their short ride from the State Diner to the Ithaca police station. “I was really scared. I had no idea what he might do to me next. By the time we got to the station, I was pretty beat up.”

A woman from Dryden that identifies as lesbian who wanted to remain anonymous stated, “Knowing that Moracco might show up at my door makes me think twice about calling the cops even if it were an emergency. I shouldn’t be afraid of my own police force. That’s why I’m here today.”

Kathy Russell walking the bridge sidewalk at Clinton and Elmira stated, “I don’t know Amy Crockford, but I care about the LGBTQ community and I want to show my support for them.”

Organizers reported that another Human Rights Rally is planned for two weeks on Saturday, May 10th.  They say they plan to continue until Lansing and Wilkinson take action to remove Stephen Moracco from the Tompkins County Sheriff’s office.